By WATCHARAPONG THONGRUNG
“Undertaking an environment impact assessment together with a public hearing might take as long as two years after the feasibility study for a project is completed,” Chula Sukmanop, inspector-general of the Transport Ministry and acting director of the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP), said last week.
For the Bangkok-Chiang Mai high-speed train route, the OTP has received the result of the project’s feasibility study from Japan, he said.
However, for the Bangkok-Chiang Mai and Bangkok-Nong Khai lines, the OTP is still waiting for the feasibility study supported by China, which has sent its staff to research the proposed routes.
“The study is expected to be completed next month,” he said.
The feasibility studies are based on each country’s technology and competence. This would help the OTP because it could compare the good points and shortcomings of the studies conducted by China and Japan as well as its own study.
The OTP is preparing to hire a consulting company by September to conduct a study on three more routes – Bangkok-Chiang Mai, Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima and Bangkok-Hua Hin – as well as other possible routes linking to neighbouring countries. The budget for the study was about Bt600 million. It is expected to take more than 12 months.
As the state agency that gathers all project feasibility studies, OTP would then propose a variety of project models to the Transport Ministry to consider.
The government would make the final decision on which investment model to use, for example, loans, joint ventures or concessions.
Initially, each railway project is estimated to cost about Bt200 billion to build. Both China and Japan are ready to offer Thailand financial support, but the government has not officially given the nod to whom it would join hands with, he added.
The high-speed trains as planned will run on standard gauge, or 1.435-metre wide, tracks. The routes will be dual-track, with some sections elevated over cities and road crossings and some passing through tunnels in the mountains.